Article by: Columnist Neal St. Anthony
Published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on February 12, 2012 at 6:22 p.m.
Mild-mannered Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, described by Republican and Democratic predecessors as a good listener, has put the teeth back into the agency.
Rothman, a business lawyer by trade, was hired by Gov. Mark Dayton a year ago with a mandate to step up consumer protection, enforcement and financial literacy initiatives at an agency that was perceived as less-than-aggressive under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Since Rothman took over, several deputies who oversaw insurance, enforcement and banking have retired or left.
Former Commerce Commissioner Glenn Wilson, a career mortgage banker, has disputed that the agency was slow to respond to the mortgage meltdown that brought the nation's economy to its knees in 2008. Regardless, the pace of investigations, enforcement actions and the agency's profile have picked up under Rothman.
"I sensed an opportunity to reorganize and emphasize some things that could be done better," said Rothman. "We're responsible for protecting the public. We also want to make sure that business has an opportunity to succeed. There's a balance there. There are some bad actors out there. But the overwhelming number of Minnesota companies, 99 percent, are good citizens."
Op/Ed by Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue Myron Frans
Published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on February 9, 2012 at 5:56 p.m.
By most conventional measures of economic prosperity, Minnesota is outperforming other states. Yet a recent Pioneer Press editorial, promoting the findings of a flawed tax index, says otherwise - hardly the best way to position our state for more growth.
First, the facts: Minnesota has the nation's 10th-highest per-capita personal income, 7th-lowest unemployment rate, 13th-lowest business failure rate, and 8th-lowest poverty rate. We have regained more than 33 percent of jobs lost in the recession (compared with 25 percent nationwide). In 2011, total wages in the state increased four times as much as in the rest of the country.
Despite the economic reality in the state, the Tax Foundation's "State Business Tax Climate Index" claims that Minnesota is bad for business ("Minnesota takes a licking on tax climate," Feb. 7). This is misleading, and biased.
The index is focused only on tax rates, without documenting the real-world effects or considering what Minnesotans and businesses in the state actually pay. For example:
It knocks Minnesota for having a sales tax on manufacturing equipment, but does not acknowledge that taxpayers receive tax credits (refunds) that cover these costs.
It criticizes Minnesota's research and development credit and Angel Investment Credit, even though they are important priorities for businesses in the state.
It is biased against states with multiple income tax brackets, even though there is no evidence that multiple brackets are a detriment to business growth.
The index ignores the benefits provided by public investment when assessing our business climate - yet it is those public investments that draw employers to Minnesota. As state economist Tom Stinson has noted, our taxes have bought something for businesses - like productive workers, research, high-quality transportation and other business services.
Governor Mark Dayton knows that Building a Better Minnesota means our workers must have the skills and training to fill the jobs of the 21st century. That’s why Governor Dayton has made job creation and workforce development his top priority for the legislative session.
Today the Governor attended a meeting of the Governor’s Workforce Development Council (GWDC) to hear a presentation on their yearly report. The Council serves an important role in workforce development, providing analysis and recommending policies to improve workforce readiness.
The report, entitled “All Hands on Deck: Sixteen Recommendations for Strengthening Minnesota’s Workforce,” offers recommendations to improve worker training, skill development, and education. Many of the report recommendations mirror proposals laid out by the Governor and DFL legislators last month.
Getting Minnesota Back to Work
- Under the Governor’s leadership Minnesota continues to outpace the national economic recovery. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is 5.9 percent, compared to 8.6 percent for the rest of the country. There are 53,000 more Minnesotans at work now, compared to the bottom of the recession.
- Governor Dayton worked to pass a $500 million bonding bill, putting thousands of Minnesotans back to work improving bridges, roads and infrastructure.
Under the Recovery Act, Minnesota was awarded $138 million to deliver energy efficient upgrades such as insulation, air-sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling systems in homes across the state.
Read the full announcement below:
Governor Dayton and Energy Secretary Chu Announce Major Recovery Act Milestone: 18,000 Homes Weatherized in Minnesota, 600,000 Nationwide
Recovery Act Program has Reduced Energy Bills for 18,000 Minnesota Households
Washington, DC -- U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu hosted a conference call today with Governor Mark Dayton to announce that states and territories across the nation have reached the goal of weatherizing more than 600,000 low-income homes– including more than 125,000 multi-family homes like apartment buildings – more than three months ahead of schedule. Under the Recovery Act, Minnesota was awarded $138 million to deliver energy efficient upgrades such as insulation, air-sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling systems in homes across the state. Through October, Minnesota has upgraded more than 18,000 homes, exceeding its goal under the Recovery Act by more than 400, and will continue weatherizing homes for the next few months with Recovery Act funds. The state reached this major milestone as part of its efforts with the Department to save energy and reduce home utility bills for families, while creating jobs in communities throughout the country.
Gov. Mark Dayton and his commissioners are fanning out across Minnesota.
Education, revenue, pollution control and agency heads are following their boss' lead by hitting the road to take the pulse of the people.
"I think it makes a better relationship between Minnesota citizens and their government," Dayton said. It is essential, he said, for administration officials to "get out from behind the desk and the office and really see firsthand what's going on there in the real world and get the dialogue going. I really encourage commissioners to do that. I am very proud of them for doing so."
As a candidate, Dayton toured Minnesota's 87 counties in 87 days, covering 9,000 miles in less than three months. At the tour's conclusion, he bragged that he'd probably been to more counties more often, "than all the other candidates combined."
The Opportunity Index ranked all 50 states using indicators such as the unemployment rate, poverty rate, on-time graduation rate, and others to assign a first of its kind Opportunity Score. Minnesota earned an Opportunity Score of 81.2 out of 100.
According to the announcement, Minnesota earned high marks:
Minnesota outperformed almost every other state in the union, earning an Opportunity Score of 81.2 out of 100. A few of the highlights that helped set Minnesota apart include:
- Weathering the Economic Downturn: During a time when a majority of the country is struggling to make ends meet, Minnesota’s residents earn a slightly higher on average income than most Americans ($57,007 vs. $51,425). In addition, their statewide poverty rate is just over 10% compared to the national average of 13.47% and their unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national unemployment rate (7.4% vs. 9.1%, respectfully).
Technology has been a driving and innovative force in Minnesota’s economy. The state's deep and diverse technology base, which crosses many sectors and fuels Minnesota's economic engine, helps provide the tax base and economic support for Minnesota's high quality of life.
Minnesota is committed to promoting the success, sustainability, and global competitiveness of its technology industries. It has become a powerhouse of technological innovation, fostering groundbreaking collaborations across educational and industrial spheres.
The continued health of Minnesota’s technology sector is crucial to the future prosperity of our state.
To read the proclamation, click here.